Tanzania uses the shilling as its official currency, although you may well see and hear it referred to as the shilling while you are there. This is because shillingi is the Swahili name for the currency.

What coins and notes are available for this currency?

Although the currency is a decimal one and each shilling is divided into 100 senti, there are no longer any senti coins in circulation. So while it is still officially a part of this currency you won’t actually come across it in reality.

There are only three coins that are circulated here at present – these are the 50, 100 and 200 shilling coins. There are a further five banknotes available though, which are the 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 shilling notes.

From past to present – the history of the Tanzanian shilling

We must travel back to the mid-Sixties – 1966 to be exact – to find the first use of the Tanzanian shilling. It was once part of the United Kingdom but it gained independence in 1961. To begin with the country decided to use the East African shilling. However after five years had gone by they decided to create their own version of the shilling to introduce as a national currency.

How to get hold of the Tanzanian shilling

You probably won’t be able to get hold of this local currency until you actually arrive in the country, so make sure you have another popular currency to exchange once you get there. For some reason the US dollar tends to get a better exchange rate than other currencies, so bear this in mind. Similarly you need to make sure you have time to exchange all your banknotes back into your own currency before you leave the country. The best bet is to visit a bank or a bureau de change.

You can easily get cash from cash machines once you arrive in the country, so you should have at least one card on you that you can use. You may want to check with your bank to determine whether your card can be used in Tanzania prior to going, and how much you can expect to pay in charges.

However you shouldn’t think of using credit or debit cards to pay for goods or services other than using them at cash machines. Identity theft is rife in this country and using a card can be very dangerous in this sense. You’ll also get stuck with a high fee for using a credit card, so you’re better off sticking with cash.

How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Tanzanian shilling

You can do this via any good currency exchange rate calculator. Some of these are updated more often than others so make sure you consider which ones are updated every minute or so if you want an accurate idea of the exchange rate. It will be a literal rate though and won’t take into account any charges you will need to pay to get cash via a bank or bureau de change.

As with many countries it can be useful to find out more about Tanzania before you think of booking a trip there. One way to learn more is to visit the Tanzania High Commission, but you don’t actually have to go into London to do this. Instead you can go to their website at http://tanzaniahighcommission.co.uk/.

Travelling safely with the Tanzanian shilling

Many people who visit Tanzania have a wonderful time there that is uninterrupted by anything negative. However there is always the possibility that tourists will be the victims of crime, so it makes sense to ensure you can protect yourself as much as you possibly can.

The usual rules apply here really, such as carrying a minimum of valuables and cash at all times. The most familiar targets tend to be people who are seen to carry more cash and are wearing expensive jewellery. By minimising the way you stand out to other people you can make sure you a less of a target. There are criminals who will pick pockets and snatch bags – and this latter occurrence even takes place by grabbing them through open car windows. Do be aware of the security risks of leaving car windows open and doors unlocked.

If anyone does demand you give cash to them, don’t resist. It might be tempting to do so but it can lead to violence and has done in the past. Be sensible, keep your cash in different places and in small amounts and don’t incur any bigger risks than are absolutely necessary.

Where to spend your shillings in Tanzania – and what to spend them on

Tanzania can be found in East Africa. Its border meets many other countries in the region. Uganda is immediately to the north for example, while Kenya is across to the north-east. Then comes the Indian Ocean along the eastern edge. To the south you will find Mozambique followed by Malawi. Further round to the south-west is Zambia and then to the west are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.

As far as attractions go for the tourists who visit the country, there are a couple of great and very famous attractions here that you may not realise you already know about. Take the Serengeti National Park for example. Surely everyone is at least a little familiar with this. The location is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for good reason as well. It is simply stunning and many people travel here to go on a safari. It is famous for many reasons but this park in the northern reaches of Tanzania is home to the wildebeest migration that takes place each year. It is also home to the Big Five animals that everyone would want to see on their safari – the lion, African leopard, African elephant, African buffalo and the black rhinoceros. You could spend your whole holiday in this park alone and never see any of the rest of the country and you wouldn’t feel hard done by.

Elsewhere in Tanzania you’ll find Mount Kilimanjaro, surely one of the most famous volcanic mountains in the world. It is the tallest mountain of its kind the world has to offer, rising an incredible 19,341 feet above sea level. Needless to say the climbing is best left to the experts since this is no small mountain.

We’ve already discovered that Tanzania’s eastern coastline meets the Indian Ocean. Just off the coast you can visit Mafia Island, which despite the name has nothing to do with the Mafia! It is something of a well-kept secret which means you can enjoy your time on the island without being shoulder to shoulder with lots of other tourists. The beaches are wonderful and there are significant areas of coral reef around the island, enabling you to go diving and snorkelling to see what lies beneath the waves.

You can probably see by now that Tanzania is filled with natural wonders in every area. However there are other attractions worth seeing in the country so it is worth putting together an itinerary if you can. For example you should pay a visit to Zanzibar if you have the time, an area of Tanzania that is semi-autonomous. The area most attractive to many is called Stone Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name basically means Old Town and it is resplendent with history. The so-called House of Wonders can be found here, a building that dates from the late 1800s and has gone through a number of uses in its lifetime. It is quite an impressive building but it is by no means the only building of this kind in the area. While you are there you should take the time to wander into the Forodhani Gardens, as these are very close to the House of Wonders and provide somewhere where you can sit down and enjoy the views out over the Indian Ocean.


Tanzania has plenty to offer regardless of the type of holiday you would like to have. We know it is home to the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro, but there are more sedate areas to visit too, ones that offer altogether different experiences from the many natural ones available. The presence of so many attractions in a single country certainly makes it far easier to plan your holiday in advance of actually getting there.

Of course you may be staying in one specific area and thus you will be restricted to the attractions available there. But do remember that a multi-centre holiday is perfectly possible, particularly if you are staying there for two weeks or more. This could be a great opportunity to explore more of Tanzania and to see some of its history, nature and coastline as well.

In short, you will probably find plenty more reasons why you should go to Tanzania than there are reasons not to! Why not start exploring online now to get some plans in place for your next foreign holiday?

Tanzania Shilling – TZS

2 thoughts on “Tanzania Shilling – TZS

  • October 29, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Tanzania is another of those countries I know the name of, but my knowledge of it stops right there. It sounds quite appealing and perhaps worthy of a visit, although I think reading up on what to expect before you go would probably be a good idea. When someone describes a place as a gem, you can be sure it is worth seeing for more than just one reason. Tanzania sounds like such a place.

  • December 20, 2010 at 9:43 am

    I have heard of Tanzania of course, but I must admit I have learned a lot about it since reading this article. I found it quite interesting as I have never heard of it being a holiday destination before. Perhaps I am missing out on something a bit different. Although it doesn’t seem to be a mass market destination like some other places are. It is probably for the more adventurous among us I think.


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